Africa’s population is rapidly increasing, with its share projected to rise from 17% to 39% in 2020 to 39% in 2100 (ref. 8). Already, the continent is facing low agricultural productivity and serious food security issues. It is necessary to make enormous efforts to increase food production. However, arable land continues its widespread degradation due to issues like nutrient mining and erosion, overgrazing, and pollution. Climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, like floods and droughts can further degrade land and reduce agricultural productivity.
Low productivity can lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and derail efforts towards achieving global climate goals. Poor water management, poor fertilizer application, and residue burning in rice production are all major sources of potent greenhouse gasses such as methane, nitrous oxide, and fertilizer.9,10. Science-based land management practices, which are based on science, are required to decouple agricultural production from greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the African Unions Agenda 2030 for food and water security.
The Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land UsesAFOLUAfrica’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the () sector11. To increase production and sustainability, large-scale agronomic, livestock, and forest management practices are essential. It is difficult to manage greenhouse gas emissions effectively if Africa has limited capacity to quantify them.
It is necessary to improve data infrastructure and conduct research to quantify emissions associated specific land management practices. Land use mitigation strategies should also be informed by current and future land use changes, and their impact on greenhouse gases emissions under different climate scenarios. Past studies that examined land use at different temporal scales used coarse resolution satellite imagery. They also suffered from poor quality or limited availability of data, partly because of cost. These challenges have led to limited knowledge about land management practices that reduce greenhouse gases emissions and increase agricultural productivity.
Improved greenhouse gas observation networks. In situ measurements12This will allow the development of country-specific emission coefficients (IPCC Tier 2/3)13quantification and management specific to land use greenhouse gases. It will reduce uncertainties in emissions inventory data regarding Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Uses14Emission factors are extracted from default value databases (tier 1) to estimate the current emissions.
Free earth observation data is becoming increasingly accessible, such as from the European Space Agency or the United States Geological Surveys. This, along with improvements in cloud-based computing infrastructure makes it possible to advance research into land use and vegetation dynamics. This can be combined with accurate quantification of greenhouse gas emissions to support current and future land management practices that help countries achieve their adaptation and mitigation goals.